Carnegie Mellon University
October 15, 2012

Press Release: Carnegie Mellon, Pitt To Host Second Language Research Forum, Oct. 18-21

Expected To Break Attendance Records, the Forum Will Bridge Gaps Between Disciplines To Improve Understanding of Second Language Learning

Contact: Shilo Rea / 412-268-6094 /

Language ForumPITTSBURGH-In today's increasingly connected world, language competencies are growing in importance. And second language acquisition, the discipline devoted to studying how people learn second languages - continues to evolve with new technologies, changing curricula and fresh ways to put theoretical models to practice.

To address these shifting conditions and to bridge gaps between different disciplines to improve the understanding of second language learning, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh will host the Second Language Research Forum (SLRF), Oct. 18-21 in Carnegie Mellon's University Center. The conference - which is expecting a record of more than 500 attendees from 25 different countries - will provide a unique space for researchers and educators across academic fields to share their work.

"Over the past 30 years, SLRF has become the top conference for second language research and applied linguistics," said G. Richard Tucker, the Paul Mellon University Professor of Applied Linguistics within CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. "It's exciting because it is truly organized and driven by graduate students. It also represents a strong collaboration between our Department of Modern Languages and Pitt. Rather than be competitive, we're collaborators in advising, teaching, research and now hosting this conference."

The forum's graduate student organizers - Ryan Miller, a Ph.D. candidate in second language acquisition at Carnegie Mellon, and Katherine Martin, a Pitt graduate student in linguistics - worked to develop a program that incorporated a wide range of second language learning disciplines, including psychology, foreign languages and education.

"There's a lot of innovative and interdisciplinary research on second languages happening in Pittsburgh," Miller said. "We hope attendees leave with more knowledge about second language research as it is conducted in different fields."

Martin added, "This is a great opportunity to showcase not only the work being done at Pitt and CMU, but also gather together students and faculty with scholars from around the world."

Despite many university-level language-focused departments facing severe financial cuts, Carnegie Mellon's Department of Modern Languages has continued to thrive in language education, research and community outreach.

"We've been able to demonstrate that when you put the correct ingredients together for a solid, successful program, you can succeed," Tucker said. "Our faculty and students are often able to take theoretical research and apply it to what is happening in the world."

The SLRF will feature several presentations by Carnegie Mellon faculty and graduate students. Brian MacWhinney, professor of psychology, computational linguistics and modern languages, will give a plenary talk at 5:10 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20 on "From Models to Methods: Linking L1 and L2 Acquisitional Theory." In the talk, MacWhinney will use the framework of risks and protective factors to explain how language learners must cope with the risks of entrenchment, misconnection, parasitism and isolation by relying on the protective factors of resonance, proceduralization, internalization and participation. He also will describe how a computerized tutorial system is being constructed on these principles to engage learners in both basic skill practice and real-life interactions.

Mariana Achugar, associate professor of Hispanic Studies and second language acquisition, Barbara Johnstone, professor of English, and John Oddo, assistant professor of English, will present a workshop on "Introduction to Discourse for Secnd Language Research."

Dudley Reynolds, teaching professor of liberal and social sciences at Carnegie Mellon Qatar, organized a colloquium on "Developmental Perspectives on Second Language Writing." Silvia Pessoa, associate teaching professor of liberal and social sciences at CMU-Q, will participate in the discussion.

Additional CMU participants include Lori Holt, professor of psychology; Eva Reinisch, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology; Sung-joo Lim and Ran Liu, both graduate students in the Psychology Department; Keiko Koda, professor of Japanese and second language acquisition; and second language acquisition Ph.D. candidates Miller, Ashlie Henery, Wenhao Diao, Yan Liu and Mamoru Hatakeyama.

In addition to MacWhinney's plenary talk, there will be lectures by Michigan State University's Bill VanPatten on "Some Recent Research on Aptitude with Some Implications for Instructed SLA"; the University of Pittsburgh's Natasha Tokowicz on "Translation Ambiguity in Language Learning, Processing and Representation"; and the University of British Columbia's Patricia A. Duff on "Triangulating Theories, Methods and Perspectives in SLA Research."

For more information on the SLRF, including a full schedule, visit

Second language acquisition and applied linguistics are two examples of Carnegie Mellon University's excellence in the humanities. Within the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, world-class faculty use fields within English, History, Modern Languages and Philosophy to solve real-world problems. For example, philosophers are working to improve medical ethics practices and food marketing tactics geared towards children; historians are developing policy recommendations for forensic DNA profiling and drug policy; and English professors are creating social networking tools to improve education. Dietrich College humanities students have the opportunity to follow their interests and cross disciplines, leading them to varied and successful careers.